Friday, November 02, 2007

Good Enough, part 2

It was a few weeks ago when I wrote about how some of the developments I've seen in the industry in reaction to the Newspaper Next report disturb me. Specifically:

And then there are the times I sit through presentations touting this site or that as showing off newsroom innovation, and I ask myself, "Where's the news?"

There are the hyperlocal sites that don't have a link to the parent newsroom's "top stories." Or the entertainment sites that seem to be running as far away from the main brand as possible (yeah, news isn't "hip"; but maybe the point is to ditch another process story and add one about the lack of concert venues or about unsafe clubs in your town). Or the "mommy" sites that don't point users to all those good stories probably in the newspaper's archive about bringing up Johnnie and Jamie.

Serendipity and helping people connect to a wider web of stories and information is core to our function in a democracy. Getting it right or getting it corrected quickly is our duty. "Good enough" is not good enough.

I may not be the only one so concerned. Editor and Publisher reports today that Rick Rodriguez, who suddenly resigned recently as editor at the Sacramento Bee, may have left because he wanted the newsroom to have control over -- or at least some say in -- some of these spinoffs. E&P quotes the local Newspaper Guild's acting chairman, Ed Fletcher. No one else wants to talk. According to the story:

Ed Fletcher, acting chairman of the guild and a seven-year Bee reporter, says talks with several staffers lead him to believe Rodriguez had wanted the newsroom to have more say in non-news Web activities, such as new sites related to motherhood, pets, and wine.

“Based on inquiries we made, we believe and understand that at least part of the problem was a debate over who would control online ventures that are not currently part of the news operation,” Fletcher told E&P. “We believe that Rodriguez wanted some newsroom control over these ancillary products.”

Fletcher cited the new site, as well as others related to entertainment and various personal and leisure activities. “If they are under our flag, what they say matters, especially a product like the wine Web site, which we created,” he added. “I think reasonable minds could differ over whether such things could be viewed as advertorials or the newsroom should have some say.”
The site is actually, and to the Bee's credit, it is linking to its stories that might be of interest (OK, so the links are all the way at the bottom, but they are there). Actually, the Bee is doing it better than most. Its SacTicket entertainment site, for instance, is another way the paper showcases its content, with clear identification to the paper. (Compare this to Gannett's - good luck finding any links to recent , relevant stories there or much signage at all linking to the Star -- some is there, just scroll all the way down and look closely, very closely.)

The Web is about interconnections, and that includes the newsrooms that are our larges resource. Hopefully we'll remember that.

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